Press Release

After Senators’ Push: Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Long Island Farms Eligible for Funding to Repair Storm-Damaged Levees, Protecting Over 700 Acres of Land

Apr 9, 2013

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced that, after their push, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that five Long Island farms are eligible for funding to repair 4.5 miles of levees that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The levees protect over 700 acres of farmland and Suffolk County applied for Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funds to repair the damaged levees. Although USDA guidelines suggested that EWP funding only be provided to freshwater projects, Schumer and Gillibrand pushed the USDA for a waiver to allow the five farms access to the EWP program that would fund 75 percent of the levees’ repair costs. Schumer and Gillibrand today announced that the USDA has signed off on the waiver and will allow the two-hundred year old farms funding to repair these levees which protect the farmland and homes along the 4.5 mile stretch from future floods.

“These levees are critical protective features and without them, over 700 acres of farmland will be left vulnerable to future storms, possibly further destroying the land and the homes along this stretch,” said Schumer. “These farms have been part of Long Island for over 200 years and it would be a shame for one storm to force them out of business. I’m glad we could break the log jam and get this sandy aid flowing to these necessary projects. ”

“No one can question the devastation Superstorm Sandy has left in these communities,” said Gillibrand. “In this time of great need, the USDA made the right call in allowing our Long Island farms to apply for federal funds. Providing critical repairs to Long Island levees will enable our farmers and businesses to rebuild and help safeguard future lives and farmland.”

“We are very pleased to see that NRCS is moving forward to address damage to agricultural lands caused by Hurricane Sandy last fall. Without assistance to fix these levees, the farmers who have been producing on this land for more than 100 years would have to take this land out of production and Long Island would have lost even more of its valuable farmland. With the growing season fast approaching, this news comes at the right time. New York Farm Bureau appreciates the support Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and others have provided in seeing this through,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau.

After Superstorm Sandy hit Long Island’s coast, four and a half miles of levees in Cutchogue and Orient were damaged. The levees were severely breached in several spots and destabilized the entire system. These levees are important pieces of infrastructure that protect five farms including Salt Air Farm, Latham Farm, Driftwood Farm, Terry Farm and Wickham Fruit Farm as well as over 700 acres of farmland from flooding.  Each farm is protected by a separate dike and approximately 3,500 linear feet was damaged. The levees protect the Peconic Bay from agricultural run-off and avert saltwater intrusion to fresh water wetlands.

The EWP Program is issued through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and helps communities address watershed impairments that post imminent threats to lives and property.

Suffolk County applied for EWP funding; however, guidelines suggest that funding should only be provided for freshwater projects. Statute does not require money to be spent on freshwater projects. The estimated cost to repair the levees is currently estimated at $1.7 million. Schumer and Gillibrand pushed USDA to grant a waiver, allowing Suffolk County access to EWP funding to repair the damaged levees.

Schumer and Gillibrand today announced that, after their push, USDA has determined the farms to be eligible for EWP funding to repair the damaged levees. Schumer and Gillibrand noted that over $180 million was obligated in the Sandy Relief Bill for EWP and it’s important that projects like this be eligible for this funding. Schumer and Gillibrand noted the importance of this funding because, without repaired levees, these farms could go out of business as they will continue to be flooded by saltwater. In order for the project to move forward, additional steps must be taken as required by the program’s regulation to determine recovery measures.